Using sunlight for wireless communication
This new sunlight wireless communication system – LuxSenz – does not use radio waves, but sends the information with ambient light. This can be both sunlight and artificial lighting. No energy but light is used to create a communication signal. This creates a sustainable and very energy-efficient method, with which sensor platforms, for example, can send their data. During IE2018 on October 4th TU Delft will show the second prototype and demonstrate what is possible with sunlight.
In this information age, communication is central but is taking a toll on the earth. By 2013, we were already using 50% more energy moving bytes than moving airplanes around the world. Moving information is rapidly becoming more important, and more expensive, than moving physical objects. Knowing this, our societies face a major challenge: How can we satisfy our ever-growing demand for communication but in a sustainable manner?
Instead of consuming energy for communication – as with current radio technologies (WiFi, Cellular, Bluetooth) — LuxSenz is using existing energy (sunlight).
Moving information boils down to moving energy. Your smartphone transforms your calls, videos and apps into small pieces of information (ones and zeros); and the radio transmitter in your phone (WiFi or 4G) sends these ones and zeros in the form of energy bits. Sending one energy bit is not much of a burden, but there are trillions send every day. And communication demands are growing rapidly. Over the next three years, the number of devices connected wirelessly will be tripled, from 8 billion to 24 billion – without including smartphones, tablets and computers.
By using sunlight, it eliminates the costs associated with the middle-man (no radios). There is no need to consume energy since with LuxSenz energy is reflected to transmit information. This is also how European armies communicated wirelessly in the 17th century, by using mirrors. Nowadays, thanks to smart materials – such as smart glass – similar changes in reflections can be obtained but without being noticeable.
”My vision for a future society is to cover our buildings, cars, people, or any other object, with smart materials. In that way we can transform the surfaces of our cities into active elements that can communicate in an eco-friendly manner: Cities that get sunlight and reflect back information.” (Marco Zuniga, project lead)
For example, someone is visiting Amsterdam and wants the map of the city on his or her phone, but don’t want to use his or her data plan to download the map (no radios). The person goes to any tram or bus station. The glass panels in the stations are smart materials. Sunlight impinges on the glass, and the glass’ surface absorbs and reflects light (like a mirror) to send energy bits of information. These changes in reflection are so fast that the person’s eyes does not perceive them. The person simply gets his or her phone out, points it towards the direction of the glass panel and the light sensor in the phone gets the map by decoding the energy-bits reflected by the panel.
This event is a collaboration between TU Delft and AMS Institute.